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During this extraordinary time when New York City’s educators are working closely with students and families from the confines of their homes, we will be publishing a series of posts describing their experiences in their own words. We are now #DOEconnected!

Follow our hashtag, #DOEconnected, join the conversation, and connect online with your neighbors across the City. Share stories of how you, your child, a teacher, or a school community member has become your hero. Remember, not all heroes wear capes.

Linda Fisher, eighth grade global history teacher, Isaac Newton Middle School in East Harlem

“Remote learning is more challenging than teaching students in a classroom. You have to be creative in the way you give feedback to the students. Social emotional needs are more important now than ever.”

photograph of a smiling female teacher wearing audio headset and working on a laptop computer

Ms. Fisher’s challenge is two-fold: keeping her students engaged in her virtual classroom while maintaining her own work-life balance.

Many students are feeling anxious as the evolving gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic forces the City to change and adapt continuously. Educators like Ms. Fisher believe that in times like these, it is important to address how students are feeling—many are working harder and longer hours to make sure that their “students still feel connected to class, the content, and to still know that [we] care.”

In order to keep the class connected—both psychologically and academicallyMs. Fisher reaches out to each student personally and encourages them to show up for virtual classes. She also asks students to keep an eye out for each other and remind one other to attend class. Her peer leaders are true champions in supporting their classmates to show up to class, and Ms. Fisher expects the virtual attendance rates to increase further as students see their friends join.   

It is difficult for Ms. Fisher to navigate her work-life balance, as the “lines between home and work are blurred.” She is working more than before, as it is hard to pull away from work that is never done, and she has picked up another job as a remote learning parent. Although she is not alone in the challenge, and she has her husband to split the weight, it is still tough to make sure her “second grader is completing his assignments and navigating his work, while teaching my students AND making sure his four-year-old sister is also occupied.”

Screenshot of a presentation given by Linda Fisher for remote learning

Ms. Fisher provides her Global History students with previews like these to set the learning agenda for the week ahead.

Having a routine has definitely been helpful for Ms. Fisher in both keeping virtual classroom attendance at a very high percentage and maintaining vital work/life balance. As part of the Apple ConnectED grant, Ms. Fisher’s class have continued using the same platforms that they were using in school, and, to maintain their classroom routines from home. She has tweaked some of the routines so they are more manageable for students while they are learning from home—”I have scheduled classes for early afternoon as opposed to early morning,” and “we are currently meeting weekly on Wednesdays.”

While it certainly has not been easy, teachers like Ms. Fisher continue to push the boundaries of how students can learn remotely and engage with one another while at home.

Linda Fisher is emblematic of how New York City’s educators are adapting to these unprecedented times on behalf of our students and families. We thank our educators for helping all of us stay #DOEconnected.

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NYC Department of Education, 2019